Would your patients prefer to be your clients?

J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2003 Oct;103(10):485-7.


Study objective: Time-honored terminology is being replaced in the managed care era. Patients are now clients, customers, and health care consumers. Physicians and doctors are now health care providers and vendors. The authors set out to determine whether patients prefer traditional terms or managed care-era terms.

Methods: A questionnaire of four unambiguous questions was made available to all obstetrics and gynecology patients and all family practice patients for 2 weeks at a medium-sized US Army community hospital. Responses were calculated; statistical significance was determined using logistics regression analysis. Statistical significance was defined as P < .05.

Results: Two hundred eleven patients completed questionnaires. Patient age ranged from teenage to older than 60 years; 83% of responders were women. Eighty-four percent of the responders (N = 178; P < .001) preferred to be called patient. Seventy-eight percent of the responders (N = 164; P < .001) believed their physicians should be called doctor, rather than by managed care-era terms. The age and gender of responders did not significantly influence preferences.

Conclusions: Results of this small prospective, observational study indicate that patients, regardless of age or gender, prefer traditional, time-honored terms like patient and doctor to the managed care-oriented terminology currently being used.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Terminology as Topic*